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Arizona quarterback Nick Foles doesn’t rest in quest to get better

Nick Foles threw two costly interceptions against Utah. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

Saturday night; Nick Foles couldn’t sleep. Arizona had lost at home, 34-21 to Utah. Foles had thrown two costly interceptions, one in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

He just couldn’t sleep, those interceptions dancing through his head.

No sense staying in bed, dwelling on that. He got up and trudged to the football offices at McKale Center, where he watched the game film at 3 a.m. through the wee, small hours.

“I took notes on everything that went on. That’s what you have to do,” Foles said.

“It hurts. It was the worst feeling. I don’t think I ate much at all. I had to watch it. I wanted to see what was going on. …

“When you don’t want to do something like that, you really have to do it to get it over with. After I watched that I felt better, and I re-watched it on Monday.”

Foles, a senior and a veteran of 30 career starts, has three more games left in his Arizona career. As it winds down, there is a sense that Foles is pressing, trying to do too much to erase some of the frustration of a 2-7 season in which coach Mike Stoops got fired halfway through.

“He expects himself to do the perfect thing every play,” said interim head coach Tim Kish. “That might be a little too much for him to be thinking that way.”

Foles’s first interception last week led to a 30-yard touchdown drive. His second interception slammed the brakes on Arizona’s fourth-quarter comeback attempt.

“A lot of times you watch film, and you see the good things you did do. It wasn’t all bad,” Foles said.

“There were two or three plays where you’re like, ‘Oh, man, I wish I had those back.’ But at the end of the day, I played as hard as I could and that is what matters. We made mistakes, and that is why you watch film. You clear them up and that’s how you become a better player.”

Foles has throw five interceptions in the past two games, which is a big number, but one of those came in the final minute against Washington — a meaningless throw that he wouldn’t have made in the normal course of a game. On another of his interceptions against the Huskies, a receiver didn’t run the right route.

Foles has attempted 413 passes, the second-most total in the nation behind Texas Tech’s Seth Doege (429). You throw that often, and bad things are going to happen from time to time.

The quarterback will get too much of the credit and too much of the blame for the win-loss record in what is the most “team” of team sports. Arizona is 13-17 in games he has started.

This season, he has worked behind the most inexperienced offensive line in the country, largely without the benefit of a running game, and the team’s star receiver, Juron Criner, has been in and out of the lineup because of injuries and ailments.

“He really wants to win … he takes it hard,” quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo said of Foles.

“Early in the year, he played the game and now he’s trying to do more than what he actually should be doing. Maybe he’s pressing. I know this: He really wants to win. But you can’t throw 14-point touchdown passes.

“Sometimes the play is not there, and you have to throw the football away. You can’t just force things into coverage.”

Even as it nears the end, Foles’ legacy at Arizona is still to be written. While there wasn’t enough winning to satisfy anyone, he could the guy who starts an NFL quarterbacking tradition at Arizona. The last quarterback from UA to take a snap in the NFL was Bill Demory in 1973.

All that will play out in due time. Foles is focused on the final three games, and he says motivation is “really not as hard as you think” to find.

“We know we’re eliminated, but we’re still competitors,” he said. “We love this game. I love competing, and the guys are the same.

“We still have three bowl games left. That’s how I look at it. We have three more games, each one is a bowl game. These are the last three games I’ll play in college, so they are really special to me.”

Chasing records

(Research courtesy of TucsonCitizen.com blogger Scott Terrell)

Pac-12 Records Who, When What Nick Foles, 2011
Total Offense Cody Pickett, Wash, 2002 4,273 4,204 (pace)
Total Offense per Game Ryan Leaf, WSU, 1997 325.7 350.3
Passing Yards Cody Pickett, Wash, 2002 4,458 4,346 (pace)
Passing Yards per Game Cody Pickett, Wash, 2002 342.9 362.2
Completions Willie Tuitama, Ariz, 2007 327 378 (pace)
Completion Percentage Rich Campbell, Cal, 1980 70.7 68.8
Completion %, Career Matt Leinart, USC, 2002-05 64.8 66.5
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